Education and Legislation
New York has just proposed the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) to keep people safe online. In the words of Andrew Cuomo, "Today I believe we're proposing the most comprehensive, smartest, toughest law in the nation to keep people safe online, especially minors."
That it is the toughest and most comprehensive, there is little doubt. It may well be the smartest as well. Only a closer look and time will tell.
The bill would require convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses, instant message screen names, and any other online identifiers and make it a felony to not report changes in Internet activity within 10 day. It would allow judges and the state's Parole Board to restrict the online activities of sex offenders and would ban many sex offenders from using social-networking sites.
That all sounds sensible, but reporting your logins and then setting up a second set is something teens do routinely to get around the "legislation" that their parents create. Why would we expect criminals to do any less. Yes, the penalties for a predator getting caught are now considerably greater, but that does little to help someone who has been victimized by an offender who is trying to get around the law and has no intention of getting caught.
It must also be noted that this law has no effect on sexual predator outside of New York who contact teens in New York, though at least 13 other states have legislation proposed to limit Internet activities of sex offenders.
When it comes to Internet safety, my mantra has long been education not legislation, but I've modified that somewhat. I've come to recognize the need for smart legislation and my mantra is now education and legislation. Legislation is often poorly crafted and reactionary. Even the best crafted laws can provide a false sense of security. If e-STOP is to be touted as the smartest law, the legislators need to publicly acknowledge its limitations, counsel increased vigilance by parents, and provide funds for the training of the public and teachers in the development of safe, responsible netizens.